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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Alcorn State University Meets Nonblack Enrollment Goal

Alcorn State University became the first historically black college in Mississippi to meet a controversial enrollment goal that was included in the $503-million plan to settle the state's long-running college-desegregation lawsuit.

As part of the settlement, which cleared its final legal hurdle a year ago, Mississippi's three public historically black universities must assemble student bodies that are at least 10-percent nonblack for three years in a row before they can control their portions of two endowments that have been created under the settlement. The endowments are expected to grow to a total of $105-million by the end of the 17-year plan.

During talks over the settlement plan, some national desegregation experts expressed doubts about how quickly historically black institutions would be able to diversify and questioned whether the enrollment goal was reasonable or fair.

But Alcorn State has been able to reach the plan's target, having increased its nonblack student population to 10.5 percent from 6.7 percent over the past five years. Meeting the settlement's goal means that the university can now map out an investment plan for its share of the endowments and can spend any interest that those funds earn.

Alcorn State received its first round of funds this fall, about $1.7-million. Administrators of the institution said that the money, and their control of it, not only strengthens Alcorn State's finances but also helps to improve potential donors' confidence.

The state continues to set aside funds from the endowments for Mississippi's other historically black colleges, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State Universities, but the state maintains control of that money. Those institutions have also increased their nonblack-student enrollments, but they have not met the 10-percent threshold.

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